Tony Maggs “Bee Farming with Native/Near Native Bees”

After pestering a friend of the family for many years, who was an experienced beekeeper in the Nottinghamshire Beekeepers Association, he eventually helped me to start beekeeping by taking me with him to hive a swarm. This mentor turned out to be a keen member of BIBBA, so pointed me the right direction.
After five years of beekeeping, I started my own business in Derby called “The Honey Pot” (www.localhoney.co.uk) where I sold my honey and became a Thorne’s agent, supplying beekeeping equipment to the local beekeepers. My colonies slowly built up to the present number of about 40 plus. After 25 years, I recently moved to the Trent Business Centre, Long Eaton, which is closer to my home.
When I joined The Bee Farmers Association, it helped push things along at a more professional level, with good and a more suitable insurance, discounts, conferences and lectures, as well as the opportunity to meet up with friendly and experienced Bee Farmers.

Lecture Title: “Bee Farming with Native/Near Native Bees”

Here in Great Britain there are several ‘styles’ of beekeepers – beginners, hobbyists and ‘Bee Farmers’.

Bee Farmers are generally running many hives, possibly hundreds, on a commercial basis, so their motivation and methods are different to that of the hobbyist running a few hives and selling a few pots of honey at the gate. So where do their bees come from? Imported? Home bred? Mongrel swarms? Native (Apis mellifera mellifera – Amm) or Near Native. Probably a mixture of all of these and for different reasons.

But why don’t more opt for our native bee that has evolved over centuries to be productive in our unpredictable climate? Is it a question of resistance to change? Have some tried and failed?

Are there any successfully running Amm commercially? “Yes” is the answer, a number of them, with one of Britain’s largest Bee Farmers running them successfully for many years.

Could more professional apiarists find more rewards by using our native or near native bee? What are the risks and benefits? How would they compare with colonies headed by imported queens? Would it mean drastic changes to the methods of beekeeping, or might it be a simpler solution and more self sustaining?

This lecture will discuss the pros and cons of both systems and try and make sense of it all.